Seasonal Patterns of Fine Root Production and Turnover in a Mature Rubber Tree (Hevea brasiliensis Müll. Arg.) Stand- Differentiation with Soil Depth and Implications for Soil Carbon Stocks. uri icon

abstract

  • Fine root dynamics is a main driver of soil carbon stocks, particularly in tropical forests, yet major uncertainties still surround estimates of fine root production and turnover. This lack of knowledge is largely due to the fact that studying root dynamics in situ, particularly deep in the soil, remains highly challenging. We explored the interactions between fine root dynamics, soil depth, and rainfall in mature rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis Mull. Arg.) exposed to sub optimal edaphic and climatic conditions. A root observation access well was installed in northern Thailand to monitor root dynamics along a 4.5 m deep soil profile. Image-based measurements of root elongation and lifespan of individual roots were carried out at monthly intervals over 3 years. Soil depth was found to have a significant effect on root turnover. Surprisingly, root turnover increased with soil depth and root half-life was 16, 6-8, and only 4 months at 0.5, 1.0, 2.5, and 3.0 m deep, respectively (with the exception of roots at 4.5 m which had a half-life similar to that found between depths of 1.0 and 2.5 m). Within the first two meters of the soil profile, the highest rates of root emergence occurred about 3 months after the onset of the rainy season, while deeper in the soil, root emergence was not linked to the rainfall pattern. Root emergence was limited during leaf flushing (between March and May), particularly within the first two meters of the profile. Between soil depths of 0.5 and 2.0 m, root mortality appeared independent of variations in root emergence, but below 2.0 m, peaks in root emergence and death were synchronized. Shallow parts of the root system were more responsive to rainfall than their deeper counterparts. Increased root emergence in deep soil toward the onset of the dry season could correspond to a drought acclimation mechanism, with the relative importance of deep water capture increasing once rainfall ceased. The considerable soil depth regularly explored by fine roots, even though significantly less than in surface layers in terms of root length density and biomass, will impact strongly the evaluation of soil carbon stocks.

publication date

  • 2015
  • 2015